Other Cultures Xenophobia and Understanding Essay

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The world is more interconnected now than ever before, both with technological tools and also with population migrations that are occurring on an unprecedented scale. People who grow up in pluralistic, heterogeneous societies like the United States, India, or Canada take cultural diversity for granted. However, many people around the world live in homogenous societies with little contact with other cultures other than through what they read about or see in media. Plurality in a diverse society does not, however, automatically lead to social harmony or understanding. In fact, the United States continues to struggle with racist elements in its own society. Places like India that have for centuries been pluralistic also have problems with xenophobia. Discrimination, stereotyping, and suspicion create innumerable psychological and social problems, which can be remedied simply by changing attitudes and norms. Therefore, it is always important to reiterate the need for cultural literacy and cultural competence.

Understanding other cultures is beneficial for the individual. There are several ways individuals benefit from understanding other cultures, One way is through concrete learning about the details of other cultures, such as learning about different customs, belief systems, foods, art forms, or languages. Another way individuals benefit from understanding other cultures is that understanding breeds intelligent and accurate worldviews and perspectives, which is a primary reason why universities encourage studying abroad (Kitsantas, 2004).

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Studying abroad and other encounters with other cultures opens the mind to new experiences, taking the individual out of a personal comfort zone and expanding points of view. The personal changes and challenges that come from studying abroad or otherwise experiencing and understanding other cultures is psychologically healthy. Also, any person who does not understand other cultures may not survive in the global market economy. Understanding other cultures is important on a practical, pragmatic level in that it improves ones job prospects and expands opportunities in multiple business industries.

Understanding other cultures does not mean that the individual loses his or her own identity; in fact, identity can be strengthened through cross-cultural contact as the person ceases to assume that his or her culture is the only one, or the most valid one. As Bryan (2014) points out, culture is inherent to identity but resisting diversity or refusing to understand other cultures leads to stagnation on a personal and collective level. Discrimination is a sign of mental rigidity and a lack of intelligence, whereas diversity has been proven to “promote intellectual growth,” (Bryan, 2014, p. 12). Understanding other cultures can even lead to neurological changes in the brain, improving the way we think, conceptualize the world, and solve problems (Baron-Cohen,….....

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Baron-Cohen, S., Tager-Flusberg, H. & Lombardo, M.V. (2013). Understanding Other Minds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bryan, W. V. (2014) Multicultural aspects of human behavior. Springfield, IL: Charles C.Thomas Publisher

Kitsantas, A. (2004). Studying abroad. College Student Journal 38(3): 441-452.

Marquit, M. (n.d.). 5 reasons to learn about different cultures. Retrieved online: https://liverichlivewell.com/learn-about-different-cultures/

“Understanding Culture and Diversity in Building Communities,” (n.d.). Retrieved online: http://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/culture/cultural-competence/culture-and-diversity/main


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